Thursday, March 15, 2012

Let's Learn From The Current Presidential Race Today

I am normally not someone who likes to engage in any discussion about politics, especially online, but the recent elections taking place in the South on Tuesday of this week gave me some fuel to write this post. I do want to add, in no way am I making a case for any of the politicians with this post. I am simply looking at the actions of what the candidates are doing and linking it to the publishing industry.

On Tuesday, prior to CNN declaring a winner 1 minute after the polls closed (don't get me started on that one), Anderson Cooper was looking at the general statistics of polls they had conducted. He also had the chance to discuss the election with the Gov. of Alabama. According to his polls (and yes, I understand how polls can be manipulated) the majority of people in these voting states were stating that the only person, out of the 4 candidates, who had a standing chance of beating Obama was Mitt Romney. We're talking totals from 55% up to, I believe 70+%. These are big numbers! But here was the twist, when they asked who they would likely vote for, Romney was coming in 2nd and 3rd. The candidate they were voting for was coming up in 3rd place for the first poll, and still they were going to vote that way.

As I said, the Gov. of Alabama even went on to say in a public interview that in reality, the only person who could win would be Romney and he wasn't going to vote for him. The reporter even went on to ask if he believed the other candidate would win either the against Obama, or even the Republican nomination, and he said no. Huh?

His answer was simple. "We should vote with our heart, even if it meant not winning."

While this thought is noble, I started to really question what a lot of the Republican voters were doing. If their ultimate goal was go get Obama out of office, why would they not do everything in their power to achieve that goal?

But what does this have to do with publishing? The answer is simple. I do believe, too often, writers spend all of this time writing "the story of their heart". They work countless hours on a project that makes them feel good or simply expresses their opinion, but the project simply will never be successful, or in many cases, never even be published unless they buy their way into it through some of these alternative publishing sources. What is more frustrating is the fact that many of these authors will then go on to blame "the industry" for their lack of success.

Professional publishing is about marketing. It is about sales. Creative writing is for those people who just want to work on expressing human emotions and the human condition in print.

Leah Hultenscmidt from Sourcebooks was describing at the last NOLA conference much of this same idea when it comes to digital publishing. Sure, it is possible to "put stories out there" but the true success (and challenge) comes from bringing your story out of "all of that noise" and making the sales.

I do believe that writers, like the politicians, need to stop what they are doing and examine their "real goals". If the goal is to "win" then maybe it is time to put that "creative writing" project aside and focus on the sales.



  1. I could comment for pages on the political part, but I'll leave it as "yes".

    As for writing your heart, I think writers should do that, even if it's not marketable, so they can get it out of their system and then move on to something they can sell. And in the last few months I've come to believe there's a market for everything- another subject I could go on about- but some markets are bigger than others. Agreed, it doesn't make sense to complain about that.

  2. I'm going to take the other side on this one. Sometimes, it's really hard to judge what will sell, just as it's sometimes really hard to guess which candidate will win. Plenty of "safe" candidates have lost (John Kerry, I'm talking about you), while risky candidates have won and gone on to have a huge impact, Ronald Reagan being the best example in my lifetime.

    To me, the worst choice of all would be to invest a year or so writing something that's not from the heart and that doesn't sell anyway because: 1) it's pretty obvious that the work doesn't have any heart and is derivative of whatever seems to be hot at the moment, or 2) the "marketable" project is in fact not marketable because the writer guessed wrong and/or had bad timing.

    Again, this should not be construed as a political endorsement, just a fact of life in the very uncertain environment of politics and publishing.

  3. I see what you're saying, Scott, but you're taking a risk getting mired in the political side of things. I'm a conservative and also want to be a published writer, but I'll have to learn to keep my mouth shut since I've come to believe the vast majority of those in publishing are liberal.

    I don't think it's that surprising that the voters on the Republican side are having a hard time making up their minds. You see, while their ultimate goal may be the same, they tend to think for themselves and be very independent people.

    I do agree with you about keeping the marketing aspect on the front burner when writing, if you have in mind being published and making sales. Some may take this to be insulting to a writer but really it's just another dimension being added to the challenge.